Pushing Up The Daisies

Have you ever been to the Highlands of Scotland?

I can thoroughly recommend a visit. The air is crisp and clean. The mountains are tall and bleak. No vegetation survives. And for thousands of years it has remained that way - stark, mystical, close to heaven itself.

People gaze at the Highlands and vow - when I die, cast my ashes into the air right here. Which is where this story really starts, because flinging the dust of your dear departed will never be a simple gesture.

First there is always a great deal of dust. The cremation remains of the average deceased Brit weigh in at around 5 or 6 pounds. So your late Great Uncle Whatisname may be able to fit inside a big flower vase but he is still jam packed full of chemicals.

To be precise, 47 point 5 percent phosphate, 25 point 3 percent calcium, 11 percent sulphate, 3 point 7 percent potassium, plus a spoonful of sodium, some chloride and just a pinch of silica. There's also enough aluminium, iron, titanium, chromium, copper, lead, tin and mercury left over to make you wonder if you did the right thing having the old boy burned to a cinder.

With all that metal it's a wonder he didn't simply rust.

But he always wanted to be sprinkled on a craggy rock in the Scottish Highlands. So you clamber up, shed a tear and away he goes - ashes to ashes, drifting on the breeze and disappearing.

Except in the Scottish Highlands he doesn't actually disappear. Let me explain.

Suppose you are a bleak wet cold mountain top where all the nutrients drained away centuries ago -- the last thing you are expecting is a sudden aerial bombardment of phosphate, calcium, sulphate and potassium. It is fertilizer overdose time.

And the delicate ecology of the Scottish Highlands is now under threat as a direct result of these funeral scatterings. Famous Scottish peaks like Ben Nevis, Mount Snowden and Scafell Pike are changing rapidly. Wild mountain tops are for the very first time turning green.

So perhaps the ultimate irony is that the charred remains of people so determined not to be buried in caskets... are now literally pushing up the Scottish daisies.
by Ed Boyle